Yesterday, at the library (to GET books!!!!), Charlie returns from a search mission. (He’s allowed to venture out alone among the stacks of the vast establishment as long as he remains quiet, composed and checks in with me on a frequent basis.)
Charlie arrives in the Children’s Book Section, on the west side of the building, for the first check-in. I sit with Gigi on my lap in a bay window nook, sun streaming in from the west, pillows stacked behind and around, many towers of books on the carpeted floor before us. We are only halfway through one of the book towers, which Gigi and I have built by randomly selecting this title and that. (The selections are often based on my youngest child’s approval of the book’s cover. Those book jackets painted with luscious pinks or purples or the ones heavily decorated with princesses or fairies are always snatched up immediately from the packed book shelves and spill-over carts that have been crammed into the sunny library space. Gigi insists that we “test” each book by reading it aloud together at the library before she makes the final decision about borrowing the volume and bringing it home. Charlie approaches….
Me: What did ya find?
He hands over a single Beastie Boys CD. I see that there are no books to present for my review.
Me: Where are the books, Charlie? Go find some books….now.
Charlie: (offhandedly) I have no appetite for books lately.
Me: (sternly) Too bad. Go find three books. You can get the graphic novels/comic books you like but one of the books has to be a chapter book. How about one from the Zack Files series or Animorphs?
Charlie: (hissing) I’m warning you, the chapter books section is right near the music section. I’ll definitely get side-tracked. I’m just warning you. We should probably go home.
Me: Forget it. We’re staying. The mission is three books, Charlie. Get to it.
Charlie: You’re going to prevent me from feeding my greatest passion?! Music?!!
Me: Fine. You can get three CDs, three books, one of them has to be a chapter book.
Charlie: Plus one video game?
Me: Are you kidding me? No. Three music CDs, three books – one of them chapter. That’s my final offer.
Me: Done. Now get moving.
After two more rounds of Charlie-Mom check-ins, we sign out fifteen books (eleven are Genevieve’s) and three CDs. (The computerized check-out process used to require my full attention and a certain amount of quiet so that I could concentrate while stacking the books, in just the right way, under the automatic scanner for proper bar code reading. Now, the rhythm of the process is so ingrained in my body, I can carry on a completely different conversation with each child, stack the books precisely atop the scanner surface and then load the books, post scanning, into my Whole Foods canvas bag with the grace and ease of a library sciences professional. Charlie’s pleased with both his literary and music selections, I can tell. He wants to hold his stash himself, carrying the books in one hand and palming the CDs in the other. Gigi, Charlie and I march out of the library building, laden with books, eager for an evening filled with words and Beastie Boys music.
The instant we arriive home, Charlie rushes upstairs to listen to a CD. Later, as I’m preparing dinner, I hear him giggling. Is he still listening to music? I don’t think so. My guess is that he’s moved on to reading one of his newly borrowed Simpsons books. Max, on his way through the kitchen to assess dinner readiness, surveys the library haul that has been dumped onto the kitchen island. Immediately, he questions my parental oversight regarding content.
“Wow! Who got these Beastie Boys CDs?”
“Really? They swear a lot, Mom! You knew that, right?”
He then holds up one of the Simpsons cartoon books and comments that Bart Simpson might be a contributing factor to some of Charlie’s increased sass these past few months.
“You’re probably right, Max, ” I whine. “But what can I do? The kid has to read something…for the 20 minute reading-before-bed time-requirement at school. I have to compromise or the whole library scene becomes a total nightmare!”
“That kid has really weakened you, Mom,” Max mumbles. “I never had it so easy…back when I was little. You’ve grown soft.”
Limply, I go back to preparing dinner. In the background to my clinking of pans and chop-chop of yellow peppers, are the sounds of Gigi “reading” to herself in the playroom off the kitchen. Once in a while, I hear Charlie erupt in laughter from upstairs, as one thing or another from the influential world of The Simpsons, tickles his funny bone.